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Cooking for Neurodivergents: eat, drink, and be merry!

Are you scared of cooking?


If you too have also been afraid that your food will spontaneously burst into flames while cooking, you’re in good company. This article is for you!





I myself have had many anxieties when it comes to cooking, such as how do I not trip when I put a pan into an oven, or how do I not poison myself with salmonella from undercooked chicken? As someone who recently moved out at the age of 26, I’ve attempted to make a few dishes for myself and my partner in our apartment. Somehow, I have come to enjoy cooking occasionally! I know, I’m just as surprised as you are.


So, what are some steps that got me from being a microwave-only cook to a somewhat competent chef? It was the realization that there are some so-called “rules” around cooking food that were supposed to be taken out with the trash!

(Good thing my executive functioning will occasionally remember to take that out the

literal trash too!)


What are these “rules,” and how do I break them in the kitchen? Let’s stir the pot and find out!


Eat, Drink, and be Merry


Have you ever been cooking something, and suddenly, your stomach rumbles?

You realize three important things.


1) You’re hungry.

2) You’re hungry now!

3) You cannot wait till you’re done cooking to eat something, anything.


And to that I say…go ahead!




There have been times when I’m cooking where I get so hungry or thirsty, it affects my concentration. Instead of pushing onwards, I choose to take a pause.

I stop. I drink. I eat some goldfish or Oreos.

Then, I resume cooking.

Be sure to make sure you have safe foods on hand for your snacks too!


I think having a glass of water nearby is a good idea for anyone who experiences anxiety in the kitchen. Taking a sip of water can help you calm down. Also, a few snacks to stave off hunger pains will not spoil your appetite, I promise. By considering your needs while cooking, it will help the process go smoother for you.




Time is Relative Anyways


If you are at a restaurant, you would not be surprised if the wait staff asked you if you would like to start with any appetizers. At the end of the meal, they may try to coax you into buying a dessert. The important thing to note is that the food does not all come out at the same time, and that is considered acceptable in this setting.





Why can’t we do this for our own meals at home? My mom says that she hates cooking because it is hard to have everything done at the same time. This is one “rule” I have definitely broke when moving out (sorry mom!)


I only have one oven rack, so if I am making a meal that involves two dishes that need to go into the oven, I have to take turns. My microwave is always on standby in case any food cools down quickly. It is okay to eat parts of your meal while they’re hot as the rest of it finishes cooking.


If you are someone who is struggling to even get started on the first step of the first dish, you may want to learn about autistic inertia and how working with your brain can help with all tasks, even cooking.


Mistakes Happen


There was one time where I was following a recipe that was provided on the back of a spice packet. Cut all the vegetables, prepped the meat, and threw it into the oven.

Guess what?

I forgot to add the spice pack!

Even after I was cooking for months and was comfortable with this recipe, I still messed it up. And that’s okay!


I know that no one likes making mistakes, especially neurodivergents who are often more harshly criticized for menial divergences. However, the only judge of your cooking should be you! If you are okay with breaking the stranglehold of perfectionism and making progress in cooking, then you can and should forgive yourself for any errors you make when cooking.


The only thing I would like to mention is to please try to adhere to safety standards. The two things I would prioritize safety wise is operating sharp objects safely (knives, vegetable peelers, etc.) and cooking meat up to (or above) it’s proper temperature. It’s better to eat overcooked chicken than undercooked chicken that could contain salmonella.



Bon appetite!


Even if a dish does not turn out exactly how you wanted, you made something! It’s (probably) edible! That is amazing and you should be proud!


(And even if something goes wrong, you can have a can of soup ready to go.)


Before part two of our cooking tips come out, be sure to check in with one of our coaches if you would like someone to support and encourage your cooking journey!






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